Third man involved in Marcus Kauffman death takes plea

Published 2:21 pm Thursday, July 6, 2017

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — A third man involved in the 2013 shooting death of volunteer firefighter Marcus “Marco” Kauffman accepted a plea bargain Thursday in a Rowan County court.

Tramel Hart pleaded no contest to felony obstruction of justice. Hart was sentenced to six to 17 months in prison, but because he has spent nearly three years in the county jail awaiting trial, he won’t serve additional time.

In December 2013, Kauffman and his then-pregnant wife, Maryann, had breakfast with his parents and returned to their Chenault Road home to find a vehicle parked nearby.

Rowan County Sheriff’s Office investigators said Khari McClelland and Jaylend Turner went to the house to burglarize it because they figured no one would see them. But a neighbor and a RITA van driver both saw a blue car that they believed to be disabled along Chenault Road.

Marcus Kauffman took his wife to a nearby friend’s house and returned to their home to see if he could help McClelland and Turner. Investigators said McClelland fired a gun and struck Kauffman in the back of the head as he tried to drive away. Kauffman was on the phone with 911 as he attempted to leave.

Kauffman’s car crashed through a nearby cornfield and struck a tree at the edge of the property. Kauffman was airlifted to a hospital and died weeks later after his family decided to remove him from life support.

Authorities have said McClelland and Turner stole Kauffman’s gun and laptop as well as other items. The laptop was tracked to a Statesville home where investigators spoke with Michael Dwayne Teasley, who told them he bought the laptop from a man for $200.

McClelland, who was facing the death penalty, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison in 2016.

Officials said Hart, who is the brother of Khari McClelland, had limited involvement. Hart drove his brother around to help him sell Kauffman’s laptop well after the robbery and shooting.

There was no evidence that Hart drove anyone to or from the scene of the shooting, said Rowan District Attorney Brandy Cook.

Hart is the third of four people involved in the shooting who have been convicted.

Nearly a month ago, Teasley, 28, pleaded guilty to possession of stolen goods and was sentenced to six to 17 months in prison. He was originally charged with being an accessory after the fact of murder.

Teasley, like Hart, was given credit for the 817 days he spent in the Rowan County Detention Center awaiting trial. He was set free because he had spent more time in jail awaiting trial than his six- to 17-month prison sentence.

Hart received credit for 1,038 days spent in custody before posting bond.

Marcus Kauffman’s wife and family supported the disposition of Hart and Teasley’s cases, Cook said.

Turner, 23, has been in the county jail since his December 2013 arrest under a $3 million bond. His case is pending.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.